San Antonio, Austin and environs - where do we want to go
July 11, 2013 1:54 PM   Subscribe

My partner and I are headed to San Antonio at the end of July so that he can go to a conference and I can visit Texas for the first time. We like cities, and nature, and are especially interested in how people organize and live together in whatever communities they've got (ie. social & political history and sociology). Other happy holiday finds have included biking Montreal's The Main and La Chine Canal, the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago and taking 3 kinds of trains to get to a hilltop overlooking Vienna.

I have seen this question about a weekend break in Austin and this question about finding BBQ in Austin, and this Wwartorff's search for quirky cool spots for a new resident.

Beyond the Alamo & Riverwalk - what should we see in San Antonio? where should we venture off the beaten path to find tasty, interesting food?

On my own, I would like to visit some smaller places by car, ideally find some great antiques, or quilts, maybe visit a dude ranch for a couple nights. Where do you suggest I go?

We're thinking Austin for 2-3 days post-conference, is there anything between or near the two we shouldn't miss? Roadside attractions that will make us laugh? Directions to swimming holes you hesitate to advertise can be sent via MeMail.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve to Travel & Transportation around San Antonio, TX (12 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Tasty food is EVERYWHERE in San Antonio. A day trip might be to Enchanted Rock, or one of the several caverns in the area. (Natural Bridge is, I think, the biggest)

I went (many, many years ago!) To and they were top notch.
Also maybe visit the Texas White House, the LBJ ranch. A neat, not terribly long tour.

If you can possibly get in the Majestic Theater (Downtown SA) somehow, do it.
posted by Jacen at 1:59 PM on July 11, 2013

Oh, and its 96 F now with a mere 40% humidity in SA, so be prepared.
posted by Jacen at 2:09 PM on July 11, 2013

Swimming holes? Schlitterbahn!!
On a weekday it might be slightly less crowded.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 2:33 PM on July 11, 2013

Best answer: San Antonio things you might find interesting:
* Institute of Texan Cultures
* SAMA has an interesting-looking folk art exhibit this summer that I haven't dragged myself to yet
* The McNay art museum is located on a historic spanish colonial-style estate - the building and grounds almost outshine the art.
* There's the Alamo, of course, but we also have 4 other missions within an easy distance of downtown. The bike tours are really popular, but it's guaranteed to be really, really, really hot.
* It seems really touristy, but I thought the River Walk River Boat tour was actually a great introduction to the early history of San Antonio, and the river's place in our city and our culture.

A little north of San Antonio, surrounding Austin, is the Texas Hill Country, and there's entirely too much culture and nature for me to list here! A bunch of the towns have antiques, craft shops, etc. One suggesting I might make for the summer months is tubing on the Comal, Guadaloupe or (if you are in the Austin area) San Marcos rivers.
posted by muddgirl at 3:17 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Between San Antonio and Austin is The Aquarena Center which may be worth a visit. Full disclosure: I haven't been since I was a kid, back when they had a swimming pig and mermaid shows. It has since been taken over by Texas State University and probably has a little less kitsch factor.

In Austin, I always point visitors to the Cathedral of Junk. It is such a neat thing and so quintessentially Austin.
posted by marshmallow peep at 3:20 PM on July 11, 2013


Around New Braunfels, which is where Schlitterbahn is, is also Gruene, which has Texas's oldest dance hall. I believe there are some arts and crafts stuff in the area as well. Going to New Braunfels might make a good day trip.

For San Antonio:

Quentissential Tex-Mex place is Mi Tierra, open 24/7. It's also next to El Mercado, which a whole boatload of antique and craft shops. The whole place, including Mi Tierra, is fairly touristy, but worth a visit.

Also close to the Alamo is Schilo's, a German Deli.
posted by zabuni at 3:55 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

San Antone -- 2nd the missions.
And I loved Aquarena Springs too .. The swimming pig was Ralph.
posted by LonnieK at 4:00 PM on July 11, 2013

If you are staying in downtown San Antonio, think about staying at the historic Menger Hotel. It is walking distance to the Riverwalk and The Alamo, tourist traps to be sure but a Texas must see. You might enjoy the after-dark Ghost Tour of downtown. Be prepared for it to be hot and humid so plan for early morning and evening activities that involve walking. There are trolleys that will take you to the Mercado.
posted by tamitang at 4:12 PM on July 11, 2013

Oh, man. Schilo's! I used to go there at least twice a year in the 1970's during my father's trips to the TMEA music conventions and competitions. I didn't notice it on the menu, but if you do go ask if they have the Beer and Sauerkraut cake (it's actually chocolate). It was divine!

Keeping with the german theme, Hill Country has a history and culture of german immigration. It was also home to a number of german POW camps during WWII. I always enjoyed exploring the confluence of spanish, mexican and german influences through the region.
posted by michswiss at 5:16 PM on July 11, 2013

Best answer: If you are willing to drive, you might check out Wimberley, which is between Austin and San Antonio. There's a small downtown with some shops and also a swimming hole I really like called the Blue Hole there (this website isn't so great, but it gives the hours and prices and a few pictures). Other swimming holes you might like include Barton Springs in Austin or Hamilton Pool (which has a car limit, so I'd suggest a weekday visit; call in advance to make sure they are open).

From Wimberley, you could also drive the 50-miles or so of the Devil's Backbone, a scenic drive that takes you through some small Texas towns, including Blanco where I imagine you will run across antique/quilt shops. For a shorter scenic drive, you could try the 10 miles of River Road between Gruene and Canyon Lake.

For more water related stuff, I'd highly recommend tubing on the Comal in New Braunfels. It has a consistent water level and temperature and has some fun tube shutes. Going on weekdays or early on the weekends are ways to avoid the crowds. I always rent tubes from here because it's at the very start of the river. The full float takes about 3 hours, but you can get out halfway if you want to shuttle back.

A trip to Lyndon Johnson State Park and/or the LBJ National Park might also be a good idea.

For food in San Antonio, I can also recommend Schilo's and just south of downtown, The Monterey and Feast. There are also several good restaurants at the Pearl complex.

San Antonio also has a growing bike trail system on several greenways circling the city. The best, though, is the Mission trail that runs south of downtown along the SA river. There's a couple different places to start that ride, but I'd suggest starting at the Blue Star Arts Complex just south of downtown. We've had flooding recently, so sections are closed and damaged. It's still a nice ride though -- early, early morning would be my recommendation to beat what heat you can. We have a good bicycle rental program called B-cycle you might check out.
posted by megancita at 9:04 PM on July 11, 2013

In Austin, there are plenty of lovely places to see. If you are really looking for something nature-themed, you could try the walking trails around Lady Bird Lake (formerly Town Lake) or rent a kayak/canoe and follow a paddling trail.
posted by megancita at 9:26 AM on July 12, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for the tips, everyone!

Still a few weeks before our travels, so I'll leave this open for any additional brainwaves and report back in August.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 2:02 PM on July 13, 2013

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